UK & World News

  • 18 December 2013, 11:08

Migrant Benefit Ban To Be Fast-Tracked

A ban on EU migrants claiming benefits from the moment they arrive in the UK is to be fast-tracked amid fears of an influx of Bulgarians and Romanians in the new year.

The measure will be rushed through Parliament in time for the January 1 deadline when Bulgarian and Romanian nationals gain full rights to live and work in Britain.

Currently EU migrants are entitled to claim benefits as soon as they enter the UK.

However, last month David Cameron announced the three-month delay as one of a number of measures aimed at restricting so-called "benefit tourism".

The ban will come into effect from the first day of the new year and from that point, with a few exceptions, all migrants from other EU states will have to wait three months before claiming out of work benefit.

After six months on £71-a-week Jobseekers Allowance, only those who can provide evidence that they have a genuine chance of finding work will be allowed to continue claiming.

Mr Cameron said: "The hard-working British public are rightly concerned that migrants do not come here to exploit our public services and our benefits system.

"As part of our long-term plan for the economy, we are taking direct action to fix the welfare and immigration systems so we end the something-for-nothing culture and deliver for people who play by the rules.

"Accelerating the start of these new restrictions will make the UK a less attractive place for EU migrants who want to come here and try to live off the state. I want to send the clear message that whilst Britain is very much open for business, we will not welcome people who don't want to contribute."

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith suggested there were more measures to come.

He told Sky News: "In essence, if people travel to another country, in due course, we want to be able to tighten it up so that you remain the responsibility of your home nation until you have demonstrated that you are responsible, you have been earning, you pay taxes and therefore you become eligible for benefits."

After announcing the benefit clampdown, the Prime Minister was accused of "hysteria" by the European employment commissioner Laszlo Andor, who said he risked making Britain the "nasty country" of the EU.

The Government's own figures for 2011/12 show that only 7% of those claiming Jobseeker's Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit or Income Support were foreigners and only 31% of those were from within the EU.

Labour on Wednesday accused Mr Cameron of a "chaotic" approach to bringing in the new measures.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "Labour called for these benefit restrictions nine months ago. Yet David Cameron has left it until the very last minute to squeeze this change in."

Other measures in Mr Cameron's package include stopping housing benefit claims for EU jobseekers; toughening the "habitual residence" test for claimants; imposing a 12-month re-entry ban for people who have been removed for begging or sleeping rough; and increasing fines for businesses found not to be paying the national minimum wage.

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